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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

West Country care home workers to strike on alternative days for rest of June

Written by Alan Jones

Care workers are launching a series of strikes in protest at plans to cut their pay or change shifts.

Around 120 members of Unison employed by Sirona at care homes in Bath and other areas of north-east Somerset will walk out for two hours on Wednesday and every other day for the rest of the month.

Unison say the company wants workers to accept an unpaid 30-minute break or work extra hours.

The move would cost low-paid workers up to £1,200 a year, says Unison.

General secretary Dave Prentis pledged the support of the union to the care workers during his speech to its annual conference in Brighton on Tuesday.

"This is about fighting injustice - we salute the brave strikers."

Bernadette Yea, one of the care workers involved in the dispute, said staff employed by the NHS doing a similar job were paid £3,500 a year more.

She told the Press Association: "We need to take a stand now because otherwise the gap will grow and other employers across the country will think this is acceptable practice.

"Having a rest break is really important, but if the changes go through, the level of care will drop."

Unison said the workers were taking action "with a heavy heart" but could not live on a reduced income.

Sirona chief executive Janet Rowse (pictured) has said she understood why staff were upset, but as a not-for-profit organisation Sirona was faced with a financial gap and had to live within its means.

"We have been in conversation with Unison and staff since last summer as we have been keen to find alternative ways of meeting the funding gap. We have already reduced management and overhead costs.

"The issue for which we have not been able to find a solution with staff is the removal of paid breaks in shifts of six hours or more.

"Staff have been offered flexibility as to whether they maintain their income and do more hours or maintain their hours and reduce their income; the average impact would be about £300 a year.

"We have offered to cap the number of extra shifts anyone would need to work to no more than one in every four weeks.

"We are sorry and disappointed that we were unable to reach agreement with Unison over the issue and we do want to continue to have conversations to find a way forward. We remain open to considering other proposals from Unison and staff.

"Having unpaid breaks will ensure consistency with elsewhere in the sector and within Sirona and our pay and benefit package is competitive including sickness and holiday pay as well as pensions."

She said Sirona told Bath and North East Somerset council in January of the actual cost of running residential services but the authority was unable to make that level of funding available on an ongoing basis.

"The council has provided additional funding for new developments including the transformation from residential to nursing care and to enable us to care for those with very complex dementia. We are grateful for this support. However, this funding does not solve the problem of the underlying gap."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Sirona Care & Health.